Exercise and Your Mental Well-Being

Growing up, I’ve always enjoyed partaking in physical activity, but I never truly understood what it meant to my mental health and well-being. Since the time I was five, I remember visiting the local park with my dad to kick a soccer ball or serving up a birdie with my mom on our homemade badminton court on a late summer evening. For me, exercise was a large part of my lifestyle that encouraged me to stay healthy and be active.

It wasn’t until my early 20’s when I reached college that I finally realized the effect exercise had, not just on my body but my mental state of mind. Roughly three years into college, I endured an injury that at the time I didn’t know would end my college career. For the first time in my life, I found myself extremely frustrated and disconnected from my surroundings. I often sulked and wondered how something I worked so hard for and invested so much time in could be over in the blink of an eye. I experienced traumatic psychological and mental withdrawals that impacted my mood, my grades, and my body.

The Importance of Exercise

It wasn’t until the moment I had the opportunity to sit down with a sport psychologist during my injury that I realized how mentally unstable I had become. The more I talked and expressed my unhappiness, the more I became aware that I had allowed my injury to control me. This caused a domino effect that quickly trickled into different areas of my life. I decided to listen to my psychologist who motivated me and pushed me to focus on what I can do.

I began devoting more time into physical activity I could participate in such as yoga and arm biking. At first, I felt completely defeated and almost embarrassed, but within weeks I noticed a significant change in my temperament. I finally gained focus in my classes, I was more conscious of what I was eating, and most importantly, my mind was finally at ease. During that time, I learned a lot about the impact of exercise and how it shaped me emotionally, physically, and mentally. Chemically, I was intrigued with how my body regulated stress hormones and how exercise taught my body how to adapt and release less hormones in situations of high stress. In addition to stress management, I received a drastic uplift in my overall cognitive function. Some people have found that along with exercise a good way of managing stress is a healthy sleeping pattern. Your sleeping pattern can be disturbed by a number of things, for example, a friend of mine found that her sleeping was being interrupted because her mattress was getting old. Getting a new one from somewhere like Leesa could help with getting your sleeping back on track and get you back in action much like she did.

Tabria Williford

Back in Action

Fast forward a couple years and I’m back in action participating in a diverse range of sports! Personally, since working at Iris, I’ve had the privilege to have a phenomenal work-life balance that has allowed me to do the activities I love. At Iris, I’ve been able to continue to grow professionally while feeling encouraged to maintain a healthy way of living. The occasional free yoga pass and fifty-dollar monthly gym stipend only heightens my excitement to get out and exercise!

The next time you're battling an issue or feeling emotionally or mentally drained, I’d encourage you to ask yourself what you’re doing physically to enhance the other areas of your life. Take a walk, splash in the pool, or check out a new class. Whatever it is, I challenge you to continue to seek out physical activity to push you one step closer to gaining that stability we all desire in life!

Tabria Williford is the Recruiting Associate for Iris Telehealth.